One of the most powerful and popular online classified ad websites is clearly Craigslist. In Google Trends, search patterns for Craigslist far surpass those for other free ad services such as Kijiji or USFreeAds.
Much of the power of the multitude of Craigslists are that while they certainly cover local communities, the lists are spread throughout the entire world. With Craigslist, it’s just as easy to search through electronics for sale in Poland as it is to search for auto parts for sale in Greece. The scope of the Craigslist database is just staggering.
However, this size also represents a significant search problem. While it’s fairly easy to search through listings within a specific city or town, how do you search listings posted throughout an entire country, or even the entire world?
Solving The Craigslist Search Dilemma
Everyone who has ever used Craigslist knows that the site is about as non-user friendly as it could possibly be. The front page consists of nothing more than a huge listing of locations that stretch from the U.S. all the way throughout Europe and Asia.
The front page offers not a single search feature. Instead, you must select a location first, and then you can search. A few MakeUseOf articles have covered some potential solutions, such as this article by Abhijeet which discusses the website SearchAllCraigs.com, or CLHack which lets you search Craigslist for listings with pictures.
However, by far the best free tool I’ve found for searching all of the Craigslists is the free CraigsList Reader by Motion Technologies.
Overview of The CraigsList Reader
The CraigsList Reader is a well written application that allows users to drill through the entire database of Craigslists, based on any search criteria whatsoever. The application is aesthetically impressive considering it’s a completely free application. Search results are displayed in the pane to the right, and individual ad content is displayed in the panel below it.
The Reader offers users a comprehensive search based on categories, geographic locations, and even subcategories and ranges (such as price ranges) depending on which category you choose. The selection boxes at the lower left hand portion of the screen allow you to select which demographics and categories to search through, view your saved favorites from previous searches, set up notifications (see below), or configure your Craigslist Reader options.
This is also the corner of the screen where you can view the search status and number of results as the Reader application sifts through the millions of Craigslist listings.
How It Works
The power of this application really comes out when you start using it. While the search itself can take a fair amount of time depending on the number of connections you allow (consider the fact that it’s sifting through millions of ads across the world), the results are more useful than anything you’ll find trying to sift through the website yourself.
For example, whenever I’m hungry for writing work, I will often search the entire world for writing gigs. While this may sound like a bit of a stretch, I’ve found some of my best clients in countries like China, Australia, and even Ireland. The Craigslist Reader is useful for local searches as well, but when you can do work on a global scale, this application can really come in handy. The results for such a search typically take about 20 minutes or more to complete (with 5 connections), but by the time it’s finished there are thousands of results to sift through.
While doing manual searches yourself can provide a lot of opportunities, eventually you’ll make it to the bottom of the list. At that point, the real game on Craigslist is getting to the opportunity faster than anyone else. That’s where the “notifications” feature of Craigslist Reader is useful.
When you click the “Add as Notification” box before performing a search, you can add that search to your notification list. What that means is that the Craigslist Reader will repeat the search as often as you tell it to, and when there are any new results, it will immediately notify you through a display, sound, or even an email alert.
This is an excellent feature, especially if you’re in a highly competitive industry and need to jump on opportunities before your competition. You can also tweak the Craigslists search by modifying the application options.
The key feature in the Options section is the ability to modify how many connections, or threads, you want to allow the application to use. This lets you scale back the bandwidth that the Craigslist Reader uses if you want to just let it run in the background while you surf the Internet. By carefully selecting the right thread count, you can tweak the Reader to make the most efficient use of your broadband Internet connection.
Why Craigslist Reader is Unique
While there are a number of web based and application based Craigslist readers out there, Motion Technologies really nailed it with this particular free reader. The search capacity, bug-free features, and the ability to tweak the application and alert settings to your particular needs sets this reader well above the rest.
In particular, if you are looking for job opportunities, just set up your search notifications, let the application run in the background, and before you know it countless job opportunities will be knocking down your door.
Do you have a particular method or tool that you like to use to search the Craigslists? Share your opinion in the comments section below.